Despite appearances, the United States is still a nation of laws, and every January first, we wake up to a gaggle of new ones that were passed by our hard-working legislators over the previous year. 2023 promises many new and exciting rules that must be followed or you’ll thrown into a cage, so here’s a cross-country tour of new statutes, codes, regulations, and ordinances we should all know about.
Federal laws promise cheaper insulin, electric cars
On the federal level, some aspects of the Inflation Reduction Act are going to come online in 2023. While the initiative’s main thrust is incentivizing the development and adoption of renewable resources through corporate tax credits, it offers regular citizens like you and me some steep discounts on solar panels, energy efficient appliances, and electric vehicles that we might start seeing this year, including tax rebates of up to $7,500 for new, eligible electric vehicles and up to $3,750 for used ones.
Another bright spot for some consumers: IRA caps the price of insulin for Medicaid recipients at $35 a month. If you need insulin and you’re not on Medicaid, hey, maybe you’ll get some help down the line at some point.
2023’s state law trends: wages, drugs, and abortions
New laws get a little more interesting on the state level. Although the federal minimum wage remains at the same $7.25-per-hour rate that’s been in place for more than a decade, 20 states increased their minimum wages. Lower-wage workers will start seeing bigger paychecks soon in Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, and Washington. Connecticut, Nevada, and Florida minimum wages are increasing later in the year. Washington state’s minimum wage is the highest in the country at $15.74 an hour, and both New York and Massachusetts have jacked theirs up to an even $15 for 2023.
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Marijuana and mushrooms
National decriminalization of weed is taking a long time, but steps were made in Arkansas, North Dakota, and South Dakota, where adults will be allowed to use marijuana legally in 2023, and Maryland and Missouri will allow weed-smoking/gummy-eating if you’re over 21. In total, 21 states now allow recreational marijuana use and 37 allow medical marijuana in some form.
The citizens of Colorado voted to decriminalize the use of psilocybin and other psychedelic drugs in 2022. Colorado joins Oregon as the first two states that allow the use of these psychoactive substances. While the decriminalization for using and growing psilocybin, psilocyn, DMT, ibogaine, and mescaline begins on Jan. 24, Colorado’s plan of establishing licensed centers where people can use these drugs won’t be in place for a while—there are a lot of details to work out.
Changes in abortion laws
The outlines of the “culture war” are clearly visible when it comes to state laws concerning abortion. Both New York and California passed abortion laws—newly enacted California legislation proclaims that citizens have a “fundamental right to choose to have an abortion and their fundamental right to choose or refuse contraceptives” (which isn’t exactly new) and prohibits state law enforcement agencies from aiding out-of-state abortion investigations, as well as allowing trained nurse practitioners, midwives, and physician assistants to perform abortions without supervision from a doctor. New York now requires all private insurers that provide maternity care to also provide abortion care.
On the other side of the aisle, more than a dozen states either strictly limit or ban abortions. Most of them had “trigger laws” that went into effect as soon as Roe vs. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court, so nothing really changed with the new year.
Those are the broad trends. Here are some interesting quality of life law changes across the country.
Police reform across the country
A handful of new state laws go into effect this year that are aimed at policing the police. North Carolina will require potential LEOs to undergo more rigorous background checks. Existing officers will be required to attend bias training and to intervene and report cases of excessive force by an officer. South Carolina cops will face stricter hiring guidelines too, as well new restrictions on use-of-force and a new system of reporting misconduct from citizens.
No state beat Illinois when it comes to reforming law enforcement though. Along with reforming use-of-force guidelines for law enforcement officers, the state passed the SAFE-T Act to universally end cash bail. But don’t go on a Chicago crime-spree just yet: The Illinois supreme court is putting the provision on hold until they can determine whether it’s constitutional.
California: Jay-walking in; vape juice out
Despite the protests of law enforcement agencies, California has decriminalized jay-walking. As long as a “reasonably careful person” would regard a street crossing as safe, you can cross anywhere you want, no matter what the traffic light says, and not risk a citation. You cannot, however, sell vaping and tobacco products containing non-tobacco flavors in California any longer as of Jan. 1.
New York: Human composting and wage transparency
If you’re hoping to become plant food after you die, it’s now legal in New York. New York joins five other states in allowing “natural organic reduction” (or “human composting”), a burial process that involves placing cadavers in wood chips or straw and letting nature take its course. Before long, you’re a cubic yard of extremely fertile soil, ready to nourish a tree.
Along with letting citizens become plant food, a 2023 New York law requires private sector employers to list salary ranges for all advertised jobs and postings. It takes effect on Sept. 17; a similar law passed in Washington too.
Hawaii: Balloon releases outlawed
Hawaiians are no longer allowed to release helium or hydrogen balloons in 2023. A new law prevents the practice of releasing lighter-than-air balloons to protect wildlife and marine animals. I’m not sure how it applies to passenger dirigibles, however.
Alabama: Guns, guns, guns!
In a blow to Alabama’s notoriously strict gun-control legislation, the state passed the Constitutional Carry law that allows citizens to carry a concealed handgun without a permit or background check. That should work out really well.
Missouri: Criminalized homelessness
As of this year, it is a Class C misdemeanor for people experiencing homelessness to sleep on state-owned land in Missouri. That will teach all those people to stop being homeless.
Louisiana: ID required for viewing porn online
Starting in January, any website that contain “at least 33.3% worth of pornographic materials” is required to verify that its viewers are over 18. I’m not sure how one would define “33.3% pornographic material,” and I’m glad I don’t have to.
Mississippi: Raises for teachers and a new state song
Teachers in Mississippi will be getting a raise in 2023. The average bump is $5,100 for teachers and $2,000 for assistant teachers. The southern state also has a new official state song, “One Mississippi,” by singer-songwriter Steve Azar. It’s actually pretty good, if a little basic. Anyway, it’s definitely an improvement over “Go Mississippi,” the previous state song, a scary/weird, banjo-heavy tune based on the campaign jingle of segregationist governor Ross Barnett.
New Hampshire: “Cyber-flashing” outlawed
A law against “cyber-flashing” goes into effect in New Hampshire in 2023. The new law makes anyone sending an “image of himself or herself fornicating, exposing his or her genitals, or performing any other act of gross lewdness” guilty of a misdemeanor, unless the recipient indicates “by speech or conduct” that they “freely consented to receipt of the image.”